Wizards, Storm playoff hopes alive

The Lake Elsinore Storm and Fort Wayne Wizards are still alive in the hunt for the playoffs. Wins on Monday will go a long way. The Storm won behind Eddie Bonine while the Wizards needed extra innings and a sac fly from Fernando Valenzuela Jr. <br><br> Jon Knott hit two homers in Portland. Ben Johnson tacked on one for Mobile. Josh Barfield knocked in two to give him 90 on the year. William Ponce took his ninth loss of the year in short season Eugene.

Portland won 4-2

Jon Knott supplied all the offense Portland would need. He hit two homers, his 24th and 25th jacks of the season and knocked in three runs. Knott has three homers in the last two games and has hit seven in his past 13 games. He has also knocked in seven runs in his past three games and 14 in his past 13.

Justin Germano got ready for playoff action by going three innings and striking out five of the minimum nine batters he faced. Germano has been dominant since early July. He has not allowed more than three runs in any of his last 12 starts and has allowed 19 runs over that time frame. He will start game two of the playoffs for Portland.

Brad Baker was in an unfamiliar role, pitching the seventh and eighth innings. It was the first time ALL year that Baker has pitched more than one inning in consecutive appearances. Before yesterday, in fact, Baker had pitched in more than one inning three times in 61 appearances. In his second inning of work, Baker walked two and was pulled from the game with runners on first and third and two out. Mike Bynum came on and allowed a single which scored a run before getting the final out of the inning and working the ninth to get his sixth save. It was the first run Baker has been charged with in Portland.

A day after getting hammered in his Triple-A debut, Ricky Steik was on the hill again. In an inning of work he allowed one run on two hits – much better than the six runs he allowed in two-thirds of an inning the day before. He also got the win when Portland scored two in the bottom of the inning to break a tie game. Steik had not pitched above Eugene prior to being called into duty with Portland – a two hour trip away.

Mobile won 6-1

Mike Thompson won his tenth game on Sunday with a seven inning, one run outing. He allowed five hits, did not walk a batter and struck out a season high seven. He retired 14 of the last 15 batters he faced over his final four innings of work. Thompson has won each of his last four decisions. Over his last five games, Thompson has given up six earned runs. It was the sixth time in 18 starts that he did not walk a batter. He has allowed five hits or less in ten of his 18 starts.

R.D. Spiehs has not allowed a run since becoming the team's closer. In fact, he has not given up a run since August 7, almost a month. With a scoreless inning of work on Sunday, Spiehs has gone ten straight outings without allowing a run. He has given up just three hits over the ten innings of work.

Ben Johnson hit his 22nd homer, a two run shot in the ninth. It placed him third on the all-time BayBears list for homer in a season. He went 3-for-5, his first multi-hit game in 13 games despite a seven game hitting streak mixed in. Ben Johnson leads the league in extra base hits and could become just the second BayBear to top the circuit in that category (Jon Knott, '03). Johnson is second in the league in second half homers with 13, one behind Chip Ambres of Carolina.

Josh Barfield went 2-for-5 with a double that drove in two. He has 90 RBI's on the season, most in the Southern League and tied for second most in BayBears history. Barfield has broken the club record for games played in a season (137, old record was 135 by Julius Matos in '00).

Greg Sain and Josh Barfield should become the first two BayBears ever to lead the league in any of the three offensive triple crown categories. Sain leads the S.L. in home runs, 28, while Barfield leads in runs batted in, 90.

Marcus Nettles has tied the club record for sacrifice bunts in a season with nine (Cleatus Davidson, 2001). Nettles has only played in 54 games for Mobile and has just 34 starts, making the stat even more amazing.

Steve Morales has returned to Puerto Rico due to family medical concerns.

Team Records and Accomplishments:

• If Mobile commits three errors or less on Monday, they will set a new club record for fewest errors in a season.
• Mobile has hit 130 homers this season to break the team single-season record set at 117 in 1998.
• The BayBears have shattered the club record for most sacrifice bunts in a season with 57 (47 in 2003).
• With a completed game on Monday, Mobile will play a full 140 game schedule for the first time since 1998.
• Mobile has clinched its fourth winning season in its eight years of existence. Other winning years were 1997, '98, and 2002. Mobile has recorded its third highest victory total in a season.
• Mobile starting pitchers have posted a 2.47 ERA over the last nine games after failing to go just five innings in five of the previous six games. In those six games, they posted a combined ERA of 10.88.
• Mobile is 65-26 when their starting pitcher allows three runs or less; 7-41 when he allows four or more.

(Special thanks to Tom Nichols who collaborated on the Mobile report)

Lake Elsinore won 10-4

The Storm are still in the playoff hunt, if just barely. They need to win tomorrow and if the teams finish in a tie there will be a one game playoff to determine who gets in.

It waited until game 21, the last game Eddie Bonine will pitch during the regular season this year. For the first time since joining Lake Elsinore, Bonine went seven innings. The last time he did that was as a member of the Fort Wayne Wizards, just prior to his promotion. Bonine allowed four runs, three earned, on seven hits and a walk. He allowed a homer for the third straight game but moved to 5-10 on the year. Bonine had allowed a season high eight runs last time out.

Ferdin Tejeda, the player the Padres picked up off waivers from the Yankees, had started his Storm career in a 1-for-18 slump over his first six games. In his five games since, Tejeda is 7-for-14 with three multi-hit games. He went 2-for-4 with a walk, two runs scored and two RBI's on Sunday. He also added a stolen base, his first as a Storm. He has yet to have an extra base hit as a member of the Storm.

Mike Richardson hit a two run homer and went 2-for-4 with three RBI's. The last three times Richardson has had RBI's in a given night he has knocked in three on that night. He has 47 RBI's on the season in 77 games. His .610 RBI's per game rank him third on the team behind Johnson and McAnulty.

Fort Wayne won 6-5 in ten

The Wizards enter the final game of the season tied with the Battle Creek Yankees for the final playoff spot. There could be a three way tie as West Michigan is also in the mix. There is a possibility that the Wizards may not make the playoffs in that event but word from the league office was needed to confirm that. If it is a two way tie with Battle Creek, they are in for sure. A win by Fort Wayne and loss by Battle Creek would also put the Wizards in.

Brian Wahlbrink walked to open the tenth and went to third when Wisconsin pitched out and threw behind Wahlbrink. The errant throw allowed Wahlbrink to advance and Fernando Valenzuela drove him in with a sacrifice fly. It was his seventh sacrifice fly of the year, placing him in a tie for fourth in the Midwest League. Valenzuela drove in three runs on the day and extended his hitting streak to nine games. He has driven in runs in three straight games and has seven over that span. His 81 RBI's tie him for fifth in the Midwest League.

Matthew Varner earned his first save of the year in a crucial game for the Wizards. Varner had blown his only save opportunity earlier this year when he was with Eugene of the Northwest League. Varner has pitched in 15 games with Fort Wayne and has allowed runs in four of them.

Vern Sterry went 5.1 innings. Sterry allowed four runs, three earned, on six hits and a walk. He struck out six and allowed his first homer in five games. He left with runners on second and third and one down in the sixth, courtesy of a Sean Kazmar error. One of those runs scored off reliever Greg Conden and the unearned run was charged to Sterry. Conden had held the last eight inherited runners from scoring. Kazmar, coincidentally, knocked in his first run as a Wizard.

Eugene lost 6-4 in eleven

Colt Morton has joined the Mobile BayBears. He has never played above Fort Wayne.

Clayton Hamilton, back from his one game hiatus with Mobile where he went five innings and allowed two runs to get the win, went five innings and allowed three runs on three hits and a walk. He allowed a homer for the first time in five games. Hamilton has allowed 11 hits in his past four starts, spanning 21 innings.

William Ponce took his ninth loss of the season, pitching in long relief. His nine losses lead the Northwest League. Ponce went 5.1 innings and gave up three runs on five hits and two walks. He was cruising until the top of the ninth when he allowed a walk and a triple to tie the game at 4-4 and send it into extra innings.

Trino Aguilar went 4-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to six games. His longest previous hitting streak was three games, a feat he has accomplished twice. He is 13-for-25 over the streak and has raised his average from .220 to .278.


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